All throughout the oppressive southern summer, I look forward to the -ber months. Starting in September, fall is on my mind, in spite of the heat and humidity that linger in Arkansas. I begin decorating the house with leaves, pumpkins, scarecrows, and Halloween fare at the first of the month, and for the last few years, we have begun decorating for Christmas by the time November has barely begun.

This year, things began going south on September 11th. I fell and broke my shoulder in a ridiculous clumsy, random accident, leading to a lot of pain, an inability to drive and many doctors’ appointments. A few weeks after that unfortunate incident, Abby totaled her car. Thankfully, she wasn’t seriously injured but it left us a car short as we gave her one of our vehicles to drive (we did not have comprehensive/collision insurance so we are dealing with trying to sell hers for parts or salvage), Life went on through October and seemed no mater how much I tried to have a Halloween party or get together, it didn’t happen. Everyone was busy or working or had other plans. The weather turned significantly warmer and was very dry. There was a burn ban on so we couldn’t have a bonfire/outdoor movie as we have had in years past. And I have already posted about the disastrous fall weekend getaway my mom and I had at the spooky Air BNB.

In general the fall leaves just weren’t vibrant this year. There were some bright and pretty trees here and there but nothing like years past. Much of the foliage went from green straight to brown and the really striking trees were few and far between.

Let me pause here to say that these are minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things. I am well aware of that. But they were small disappointments which made for several stressful weeks. And before we knew it, November was upon us. We had planned a holiday kickoff weekend for the second weekend of the month in Branson. We rented a cabin and planned to go to Silver Dollar City and to have some family time before the holidays began in earnest. Enter COVID.

Aside from a brief encounter earlier this year when Sarah got sick, our immediate family has managed to avoid “the virus” through a combination of precautions, vaccines, and dumb luck. That luck ran out a few weeks ago. Abby had come out to the house for a visit and to get some things she left months ago when she moved out and into her apartment. She seemed a little sniffly but she has had sinus issues and several bouts of tonsillitis these past few months so we didn’t think much about it. After she was back home, she texted me that she really wasn’t feeling well so I advised her to take a home test. The result, as she put it “came in hot.”

She went to after care but was just advised to treat any fever with OTC meds and stay hydrated. We were around her for only a few hours and there was no eating, hugging, or close encounters but it was enough – whatever variant she was super contagious. Trever and I both had negative tests on Thursday; however, by Friday, he was run down, congested and coughing, and I had an awful sore throat. Trips to the doctor confirmed our diagnoses and we were prescribed Paxlovid, for which I am thankful but which had some pretty gnarly side effects!

Obviously we had to quarantine/hunker down and cancel our usual Saturday night get together with my mom to avoid exposing her. We tried to keep our distance from Sarah in the house but it finally caught up to her at the beginning of the next week. And did I mention that little trip to Branson, and the cabin we booked, was nonrefundable?? With a management company that was really uninterested in our various and assorted stages of “covid-ity”.

So that was that. There was also the gut punch of the election and a loss on a campaign I had worked on which exacerbated my feelings of general malcontent about all. But the good news is, aside from some lingering tiredness and Sarah still being stuffy, we seemed to be on the mend. Our quarantine time was up and we had a lovely cabin in Branson to spend a few days in. Sadly, my mom wasn’t able to join us; there was a possibility that Sarah could have been contagious another day or two and we couldn’t risk her getting sick.

So off to Branson we went on Thursday. We had non eventful drive and we arrived at our rental a little before sunset. After multiple attempts at entering the code into the lockbox, I tried calling the management number, per the instructions on the confirmation email. I immediately received a terse message of “text me, don’t call” – rude – and when I explained we weren’t able to get in, was told “you must be at the wrong cabin.” M’kay. Obviously.

We drove across the street and up a hill and again, saw a 3 on a deck and tried the door. Nope, not that one either. Third time was the charm when we finally got into the right rental. The property was as advertised, but we weren’t overly impressed with the management or the amenities. We unloaded quickly because we had been considering a concert that night at the Mansion Theatre. The Oak Ridge Boys were playing and I love me some Oaks. In fact, theirs was the first concert I ever saw, back in the early 1980s in Pine Bluff. Abby decided to come with us and I sat down to buy tickets only to find that I couldn’t do so online. So we raced to the theater and got pretty good seats but it was a tight squeeze amongst strangers so we moved to some empty seats after the show started.

it was a blast from the past and I sang along to nearly every song. Abby seemed to have a good time too – even though she was the youngest person there by decades! It was both nostalgic and bittersweet, seeeing a group that was aging yet still going strong.

Ye Olde English Inn, Hollister, MO

Friday we had originally planned to go to Silver Dollar City but the weather and the aforementioned Covid threw us for a loop. We wanted to wait an extra day so Sarah would be out of “quarantine” even though she wasn’t symptomatic, and rain was forecast for Thursday night into Friday morning. So we spent Friday going to a few antique stores and going to Menards (Trever’s favorite store). We went back to downtown Hollister that evening to go The Downing Street Pour House, a delightful restaurant attached to the Ye Olde English Inn. We had poutine, shepard’s pie, fish and chips and a really nice time in a beautiful setting.

After dinner, we went to see the gingerbread village display at the Chateau on the Lake. Each year, the staff creates an elaborate display of edible art – beautiful large structures with amazing details. The hotel itself is lovely as well with an indoor atrium and creek running through it

Saturday was Silver Dollar City day, and it was COLD! There had actually been a light dusting of snow the night before and by 11:00 a.m., it was still in the low thirties when we arrived at the park, Due to the low temperatures, most of the rides weren’t running, so the tickets were discounted significantly. And the train, well, anyone who watches the news knows what happened with the train (it derailed a few weeks ago and they have yet to have it up and running). The park wasn’t too crowded due to the the extreme cold. We took our obligatory ride on The Flooded Mine and had our overpriced food. It warmed up enough that they began running a few of the rides and Abby and I attempted a round on the “balloons.” After a wait, a wet seat, and two rotations, the temperature dipped and they had to shut it down.

I was disappointed in the shows this year. “It’s a Wonderful Life” ended it’s several year run and was replaced by a sketch type show called “Coming Home for Christmas” It was good, but not the same. And – to my horror (and no one else’s) – “A Dicken’s Christmas Carol” has been rescored with all original songs. We had seen the show several times and in my opinion, it wasn’t as good. But the performances were a welcome reprieve from the cold. And by the time the last show was over, the park was ablaze with lights.

As with all of our vacations or weekend trips, once we were done with all activities and knew we were leaving the next morning, we were done. I actually did a load of laundry at the the rental to avoid bringing it home and we packed up the next morning and headed south. It had been a fun, laughter filled weekend. After we arrived home, Abby headed back to Conway and I unpacked and looked forward to a nap before the work week. Just as I was getting the last of bags put away, I received a phone call from her that her fur baby Winston was missing…thankfully, that had a happy ending but the rest of the day was a blur of tears, searching, flier making and praying.

As November marches on, I now have a house full of boxes in various stages of unpacking for pre-thanksgiving Christmas decorating. As with every year, I am chock full of plans and idea for activities, movies, and holiday fun. There will be unmet expectations, disappointments, and cancelled plans. But there will also be laughter and joy, fun and festivities, and peace and love. I am trying to take it one day at a time and celebrate the ordinary as much as the special occasions. I hope everyone has a joyous holiday season.

-Karri Temple Bracket
November 19, 2022

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